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LATIN AMERICA | 01-07-2024 15:25

Argentina reverses Bolivia stance, saying coup attempt was faked

Argentina becomes first neighbouring nation to join calls from Bolivia’s opposition — including by former President Evo Morales — in denouncing the dramatic military uprising as staged.

President Javier Milei is reversing Argentina’s stance on an attempted coup in Bolivia, denouncing it now as a “fake” and “fraudulent” uprising. 

“The tale that was told was not very credible,” Argentina’s Presidency said in a post on X. The nation’s foreign minister had previously rejected what it saw as irregular military demonstrations in Bolivia. 

That makes Argentina the first neighbouring nation to join calls from Bolivia’s opposition — including by former President Evo Morales — in denouncing the dramatic military uprising as staged. The Bolivian government has repeatedly denied that the attempted coup on June 26 was fake. 

The statement by Milei, a libertarian, puts him further at odds with leftist leaders in the region who have been trying to reconcile the positions of President Luis Arce and Morales ahead of a presidential election next year. Both men are planning to run, and allies fear a split on the left could open the door for a right-leaning leader in Bolivia — someone whose sympathies lie closer to Milei’s.

In response, Arce’s Foreign Ministry said it was recalling its ambassador from Buenos Aires and summoning the local Argentine ambassador in La Paz for questioning. It also said in a statement on Monday that it “strongly rejects the unfriendly and reckless statements” made by the Argentine Presidency, adding  that “internal and external political interests” are once again threatening Bolivia’s stability.

Over the weekend, Morales said he’s now convinced the revolt was staged, in a reversal of his stance and of momentary solidarity with Arce, a former close political ally. 

Morales said the current president had “lied and deceived the Bolivian people and the entire world with this kind of coup or self coup,” according to news site Erbol. The day of the coup, Morales had denounced the military action and showed solidarity with Arce in a series of posts on X. 

Arce and Morales are currently battling for control of the ruling socialist party, which split into rival factions, thereby depriving the government of its majority in congress. They are both seeking the presidency next year. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and other leftist Latin American leaders have been trying to reunite them. Lula is expected to travel to Bolivia on July 9.

On Wednesday, troops led by General Juan José Zúñiga took over the capital’s main square and then drove an armoured vehicle into the presidential palace to force its door open. The plot was foiled within hours. Arce appointed new military leadership and Zúñiga was arrested. Bolivians widely support the current administration. 

But as he was being detained by police, Zúñiga said without evidence that Arce had asked him to execute the plot on his behalf, an assertion Arce denies.

Government Minister Eduardo del Castillo explained on a Sunday interview with state-owned media that Zúñiga’s plan was to take the power and call elections in 90 days. He added that the government won’t be 100 percent calm until they find all those who plan to shorten Arce’s term in office.

by Sergio Mendoza & Andrea Navarro, Bloomberg

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